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Under the Sun: Best Books for Outdoor Summer Reading

Under the Sun: Best Books for Outdoor Summer Reading

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based on 11 ratings
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Updated on May 6, 2010

There’s nothing better than a book on a leisurely summer day, and that's why summer is prime time for reading.  With warm weather fun on the horizon, however, it’s sometimes hard to convince kids of the joys of summer reading.

One strategy to renew summer reading is to take books outside! Reading doesn’t have to always occur inside closed doors: in fact, reading in the summer is best enjoyed in the grass, under the sun, or beside the pool or ocean. 

If you and your child need some inspiration for sunny summer reading, here’s a list of 18 books that are perfect for reading outside. 

Preschool
  • Little Cloud by Eric Carle – Prop this one up on the blanket on a cloudy day and see what shapes you and your little one can find in the sky. 
  • Pop! A Book About Bubbles by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – Simple sentences and lively photographs will inspire your preschooler to enjoy some bubble play outside.  It even includes a recipe for making your own bubble solution, leaving no excuse not to join in the fun!

Kindergarten

  • Mud Puddle by Robert Munsch – Every time Jule Ann tries to play in her backyard, a giant mud puddle appears to attack her and soil her plans.  A perfect backyard read-aloud for muddy, dusty kids.
  • Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert – How colorful is nature around you?  Take this book outside and get inspired to see the rainbow you may have growing in your own backyard.
1st grade
  • S if for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet by Helen Foster James – Is there a better book to read aloud around a campfire?  This could be a perfect choice to bring out to the tent and pitch it in your own backyard.  After all, s’mores can be made in the microwave too!
  • Looking Closely Through the Forest by Frank Serafini – Each page of this book brings a new puzzle for the eye. Look closely to see which forest item is featured up close on each page.
2nd grade
  • See the Ocean by Estelle Condra – How would you describe the ocean to someone who was blind?  The amazing illustrations and powerful text will inspire your family to think about ways to ‘see’ other parts of nature with your eyes closed tight.
  • If you Find a Rock by Peggy Christian – Beautiful photographs and lyrical words describe the simplistic beauty of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  A perfect inspiration to treasure hunt for special rocks as a family.

3rd grade

  • A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection by Jane Yolen – This new collection of poems by a truly gifted writer is paired with breathtaking photographs of scenes from naure.  Take it outside to read and then get inspired to write nature poems of your own.
  • Sky Tree by Thomas Locker – There is absolutely no better set of illustrations and descriptions of trees in various seasons.   
4th grade
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Summer is the perfect time to introduce your child to this classic series.  Outside is the perfect setting to read this first book aloud together, as you look out and imagine Laura’s life in the wilderness.
  • Maroo of the Winter Caves by Ann Turnbull – Beat the summer heat by reading about Maroo and her brother Otak who brave the winter blizzard in search of food for their family.  
5th grade
  • A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements  – What starts out as a class camping trip turns into a dangerous tale that's full of suspense!  Mark is new to school and not finding his niche, when he suddenly finds himself lost in the woods for a week’s time.  Send your child out in the woods (but within sight) to read this one in solitude.
  • The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker – This is the end-all book about fairies.  Full of poems, rhymes, stories and more, your fairy-loving reader will be entranced with the illustrations and engrossed in the magical world that surrounds her.
Middle School
  • The Ghost in Allie’s Pool by Sari Bodi – Who doesn’t love to read by the pool?  And what better book than one about an ancestor ghost who is advising a young girl how to navigate the mess that is middle school?
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – This classic award-winning book is a must read for every teen and tween.  When Brian’s plane crashes, he’s left to fend for himself in the woods as he contemplates his parents’ divorce and his utter aloneness.  There are several great sequels to this tale, but start with this one under the stars.
High School
  • Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson – Reading this book outside is a great way for your teen to begin to appreciate how different her life is from Hattie’s, who at the age of 16 moved by herself to Montana to try to homestead in 1918. Hattie encounters many challenges and many moments of pride.   
  • Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge – Kevin’s life is baseball.  So what will he do when mono keeps him from playing all summer?  Write poetry, of course. Readers will gain insight into much more than baseball by absorbing these pages. 

So hit the library and pack a tote bag full of books to read under the summer sun! It’s a great way for the whole family to cool off in the shade. Plus, it keeps reading skills fresh long through the lazy summer months, and gets brains boosted for back to school.

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